Site Spotlight: Christine Wong – Young Runners

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Learn more about our NYRR Youth Programs! We are sharing profiles on teachers from across the country who work first-hand with the NYRR Youth Programs that Team for Kids’ fundraising efforts support. These select individuals are not just dedicated coaches and coordinators, but also runners who will be joining our 2015 TCS New York City Marathon class and 50,000 other runners this November. Read their stories on our blog under the Site Spotlight category for insight on the NYRR Youth Programs and to hear inspirational quotes from students and parents.

In which program is your site enrolled?
Young Runners

What is the name of your site? Where are you located?
PS 001M Alfred E Smith (PS 1M Dragons) – New York, NY

What was your motivation to start an NYRR Youth program at your site and how has it been implemented?
We began the Young Runners program 9 years ago with the hope of sharing our love for running with our school community. With a community predominantly consisting of a Chinese speaking background, our hope was to expose the children and families to running as a fun sport, healthy activity, and a way to balance an already heavy emphasis on academic learning and Chinese school on weekends. Also, running did not have a language barrier. All we needed were shoes or sneakers and a willingness to explore the neighborhood through running. In addition, we also wanted to take the students around NYC and introduce them to sites around the city and to the running community. We wanted to begin a new program for our students.

We have implemented the program every year for the past 9 years. We begin each year by recruiting 4th and 5th graders in October. We hold practices twice a week. We register for road races that include races up to 4 miles. We also register and participate in the NYRR Jamborees which allow the students to participate in track and field events. To prepare the students for these races, we keep our practices very interesting by varying practices between indoor and outdoor locations. During inside practices, we play different tag games and relay races, while during outside practices, we run around the neighborhood. We truly take advantage of our neighborhood by utilizing the Manhattan Bridge, the nearby parks, and neighborhood streets. When students join the team, they each receive a PS 1M Dragons t-shirt. The students are proud to wear the shirts and to be part of a team. I have to say that the coaches truly lead by example by continuing to run in NYRR races, such as the TCS New York City Marathon and United Airlines NYC Half. Having coaches participate in these events, provides our students with an opportunity to cheer along the course. The coaches really practice what they love: running.

Can you share how your students have responded to the program and some of their favorite components?
Students have responded to the program in various ways. The commitment of attending practices twice of week definitely shows dedication. Other students commit by attending as many weekend races as possible, such as the NYRR events and Jamborees. Students have an opportunity to share their feelings about the program when we complete our goal sheets each season. Many include that the weekend races are their favorite part of the program. Others share how they love to receive Young Runners items, such as t-shirts, dog tags, sweat pants, and sweatshirts. Then there are some students who use the opportunities when we travel to the different races in Central Park and Prospect Park as writing topics in their classrooms. They are able to use their experience from the program to help them with their academics. Since we have many 5th graders in the program, many of them add comments about their running experiences into the yearbook. Overall, the weekend road races in Central Park and Prospect and the Jamborees are the students’ favorite components of the program.

Can you share a story of how your kids, or one student in particular, have been transformed or impacted by your program?
It is definitely hard to pinpoint one child, but I have to say that we really transform the whole family through the program. With such an emphasis on academic learning and with the growing emphasis on standardized testing, many students and families are feeling the pressure of maintaining good grades. Many families and students are looking to investing their free time with more test prep or more Chinese school on the weekend. We lose emphasis on developing the most balanced child that we could with all of this focus on academic learning.

What we really try to transform and impact is that children can be successful in not only academics but in health and fitness as well. The most balanced and successful students are ones who have confidence in themselves, explore the world, and have experiences to share. When we first began the program at our school, it was extremely difficult to get parents on board and support taking these weekend trips because many of the children attended Saturday school or Chinese School. Over the years, families have realized that there is a balance of academics and physical activity. It is okay if a child spends a few weekends participating in a physical activity instead of attending academic classes. Ultimately, we have discovered that the children really want to attend these trips and running events around the city. When parents witness the happiness in their child, the support grows for us continuing the Young Runners program at our school.

The struggle of finding a healthy balance for all students continues, but as long as there are programs such as Young Runners, the struggle becomes easier each day. We as educators really notice the difference it makes when students and families finally reach that balanced lifestyle.

Can you share an inspiring quote from a student or parent?
We are the PS 1 Dragons so here is a quote from a student explaining why we are the Dragons: “Dragons are fearless. Dragons are bold.”

So when the students wear our team shirts, we really hope they feel that way!

What do you believe are the biggest benefits of your program and the importance of the work you are carrying out?
The biggest benefits of the program are to provide students with an opportunity to engage in physical activity, travel and run around NYC, realize the importance of setting and achieving goals, and embracing differences. Life isn’t all about academic learning and learning can definitely manifest itself in different ways. If we do not have the different programs to allow students to explore and grow, the students will never be able to figure out what they really enjoy doing in life. We also remind each student that running looks different for everybody and we need to embrace the differences. We emphasize that some runners are fast, some pace well, some can run up hills well, and some can run for a long time. We support all different types of runners and respect each person’s goal. I love the fact that the other coach and I truly love running during our free time. We share our own running experiences with the students. We discuss our Marathon and half-marathon experiences with them and some students have even shared that they would like to run one when they become older. It’s also wonderful that through NYRR, our students have come to our races and cheered us on. The students come with signs and banners, encouraging us, and it just feels amazing! I hope that the students see us running out there in the big races and realize that they could be doing the same thing one day in the future.

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
My relationship with running began around 2004 and 2005. The assistant coach and I discussed how we both really wanted to run one marathon, but we were both very nervous about it. We decided to follow through on this goal by holding each other accountable to running one marathon together. We decided to train together and we registered for our first marathon together in San Francisco. Of course, we didn’t stop with San Francisco, so we decided that since we live in NYC, we needed to make our ultimate goal to run the TCS New York City Marathon together. We decided to join NYRR and ran many races together. We experimented with long runs and eating different types of gels. We even began cross training and learned how to swim together. Now, neither of us are afraid of the water anymore! I have to say that we really pushed each other physically, but also helped each other by reminding each other of our goal. Eventually, we did reach our goal of running the TCS New York City Marathon together, and since then, have run numerous other races. Running has become a regular part of both of our lives now, and if it wasn’t for our pact together many years ago, I’m not sure if I would have this current relationship with running as I do now. Today, we definitely find new ways to set other goals for ourselves and we continue to support each other on our journey. Part of our journey is passing our love of running down to the students.

What is your favorite place to run and why?
I enjoy running over the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC on an early morning. I love looking out into the water and looking out over my neighborhood. In the early morning, there is also less cars and pedestrians. The air just feels fresher and cleaner.

Tell us a little more about yourself
My name is Christine Wong. I am a Special Education teacher and have been working in the NYC Department of Education for the past 11 years. I work with students in grades kindergarten to 2nd grade with special needs in a self-contained classroom in a community school setting. I am also an education activist and am an advocate of public education. I am a member of the NYC teacher’s union, United Federation of Teachers, and a few of the items we advocate for are the following: more funding, fairer or less standardized testing for students throughout NYC, and more support for English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with special needs. I enjoying traveling to new cities, spending time with my family and friends, and eating chocolate. I really enjoy watching tennis, but I have yet to learn to play it well. Hopefully I can learn one day!

Member Spotlight: Sudarshan Seshadri

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
I will be running the 2015 BMW Berlin Marathon with Team for Kids.

What is your favorite place to run and why?
Favorite Place to run : Lachine Canal, Montreal, Canada

Lachine Canal is a historic trail and a national historic site which starts from Old Montreal to the St Laurent river. From incredible views of Montreal city to the river, the trail runs right by the canal for 10 miles making every minute of the run worthwhile.

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I prefer Progressive rock when I run.

Favorite Band: Porcupine tree/Opeth

Favorite Songs:

  1. Time Flies (Porcupine Tree)
  2. Beyond the Pale (Pain of Salvation)
  3. Apparitions (Long distance calling)

What is your favorite post-run meal?
My favorite post run meal is a high carb-high protein combination one.

Typical post-run meal:

  1. Masala dosa (Rice crepe with potato stuffing) with Mint chutney
  2. Egg Bhurji (Scrambled eggs with sautéed veggies and indian spices)
  3. Banana chocolate protein shake

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
My relationship with running began in 2011 when I ran my first 10k followed by a duathlon (10k running and 20k cycling) in Bangalore, India.

But I took running more seriously in 2013, running my first half marathon in Arkansas and later running my first full marathon in Chicago in 2014 October.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?              

  1. One standard pre-race ritual is loading on carbs starting 3-4 days before the marathon.
  2. Planning my run with stops through the race a day before the marathon
  3. Always wear my left shoe first
  4. Always start the marathon with the song “We will rise”

Why did you choose to run this event?
BMW Berlin marathon is an landmark marathon as a part of one of the 6 marathon majors in the world. I am planning to run all the marathon majors in the next 5 years (~1 major per year).

Running a marathon major brings out the best in you. Imagine a city like New York coming to a complete stop to appreciate you run. You get to see the best cities in the world like never before. Running is celebrated and the crowd support is amazing!

Tell us a little more about yourself
I was born and brought up in Bangalore, India before moving to the US (Texas) to pursue my Masters in 2010.

I love traveling and exploring new cities. I am also passionate about the online retail industry and being a part of it in analytics and applied mathematics. Working with the smartest people in the world in San Francisco/Bay Area is both motivating and humbling at the same time.

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
This is my first event with Team for Kids. Hopefully I will be able to run many events with Team for Kids. From what I have read, TFK has great members and staff which bring out the spirit of the organization. Also, the camaraderie between the members, staff, and volunteers during marathons is really nice and motivating.

Connect with Sudarshan via the sites below:
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/sudarshan-seshadri/1a/b60/9
Instagram: https://instagram.com/sudhu87/

NYRR Youth Programs 2014-2015 Highlights

Team for Kids runners fundraise to provide free NYRR youth running programs, events and resources to over 200,000 youth across the nation. NYRR youth programs empower youth of all athletic abilities to get moving in addition to teaching teamwork, perseverance, and more! The NYRR breadth of services includes school and team-based programs like Mighty Milers and Young Runners, widely-attended NYRR road races and Youth Jamborees, and educational resources like Running Start, NYRR’s award-winning video series for coaching young runners. See below for highlights from the 2014-2015 school year made possible thanks to our Team for Kids runners!

Disparities in Physical Education in NYC

In May 2015, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released Dropping the Ball: Disparities in Physical Education in New York City School that reported:

  • 26% percent of children in grades K-8 are obese or severely obese
  • 32% of NYC’s schools do not have full-time certified PE teachers
  • 28% of NYC’s schools do not have dedicated space for PE

NYRR is addressing these disparities and providing free running programming to 37% of New York City schools.

NYRR Youth Program Impact

  • Served more than 200,000 students locally and nationally through free NYRR youth running programs, events, and resources, including more than 120,000 in New York City’s five boroughs.
  • Established running programs in 800+ schools and community centers.
  • Mighty Milers in the U.S.A. ran over 5.3 million miles.
  • Mighty Milers in the U.S.A. earned 121,647 “marathon of miles” medals.
  • More than 7,100 public school students participated in NYRR’s Developmental Track & Field Series, a partnership with the New York City Department of Education.
  • Olympic gold-medalist Derrick Adkins inspired more than 27,733 students at 97 school assemblies in presenting his “Olympic Mentality” approach to academics, sports, and life.
  • At two Youth Jamborees, 4,797 runners in pre-K through high school participated in a variety of track and field events.
  • Over 2,000 runners participated in the four events comprising our inaugural Youth Running Series.
  • Over 3,800 students participated in three Mighty Milers fun runs.

NYRR Youth Running Series

This program, featuring kid-friendly distances for youth ages 7-18, began last fall with five cross-country races in the Bronx and Staten Island. It continued with five indoor winter track meets in partnership with the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory. In the spring, four of our road races featured YRS races for kids, and everyone had some serious fun trying out new distances and venues. The series will continue as we head into the summer and fall.

National Running Day

Kids were an integral part of our annual National Running Day celebration, held on June 3, when they joined adults in fun runs across the five boroughs. More than 1,700 kids from 58 NYC schools participated in our Mighty Milers Fun Run at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island. This year alone, our Mighty Milers ran more than 5.3 million miles, the most ever, throughout the school year. For a recap, view our album on our Team for Kids Facebook page here and the NYRR event page here.

In the Words of the Kids

  • “I like doing Mighty Milers at my school because you get to have fun with your friends. You can get moving instead of sitting at home and playing video games.” – Andrew, 10
  • “My favorite thing about running is that it keeps you healthy. Now when I want to jog with someone I have enough energy, and I know what I need to do to pace myself.” – Amari, 9
  • “I can run faster now, and I feel better about myself.” – Violet, 10
  • “Running helps in the classroom because you get all of your exercise, and then you can focus on your paper or your education.” – Mariciana, 9
  • “Running gets my heart rate going, and it gets me enthusiastic about exercise in general. I get to be with my friends and have fun while I’m getting healthier.” – Aidan, 10
  • “I go at my own pace and get to be free. We have Mighty Milers in gym class, and our teacher pushed us, so now I have better speed and endurance.” – Fiona, 9

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Facts and Statistics

  • Only one in three children are physically active every day.
  • Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, video games, computer).
  • Only about one in five homes have parks within a half-mile, and about the same number have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.
  • Only six states (Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Vermont) require physical education in every grade, K-12.
  • 28 percent of Americans, or 80.2 million people, age six and older are physically inactive.
  • Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for three or more hours on an average school day.
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Nearly 45 percent of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared with 22 percent of children living in households with incomes four times the poverty level. (Source)

In addition to these Team for Kids social media images, if you’re a current Team for Kids runner, use our Mighty Milers and Young Runners 2014-2015 statistic images below to share on social media and encourage friends and family to contribute to your campaign (additional images also linked here):

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For additional information visit: http://www.nyrr.org/youth-and-schools/nyrr-youth-running-continues-to-expand-in-2014-15

Young Runners Updates

Team for Kids runners, two unique events took place recently highlighting the NYRR Young Runners program that your fundraising supports. Please see below for details and share these exciting updates with your donors.

The Young Runners Championship! What running is all about: self-confidence and accomplishing and setting new goals–oh, and the runner bling and bragging rights! Congrats to all who participated in the 2015 NYRR Young Runners Championship (the 5K, the 1-mile, and the Rosenberg Can Do Anything Two Mile Invitational Run) and in the program throughout the year. Special thanks to Team for Kids runners for supporting NYRR Young Runners and helping kids like these learn to run for life. We are incredibly grateful to have your support!

“Why we (Team for Kids runners) do what we do….this event literally had me in tears. These kids are amazing. GO TFK!!” – Melissa P. – TFK runner, mentor, and parent.

Watch a short video clip from the event here:https://instagram.com/p/3_wawjCHvy/?taken-by=teamforkids

Learn more about Young Runners here: http://www.nyrr.org/youth-and-schools/young-runners

The second event was a shoe donation and run with a Young Runners site. Thank you to TFK Member and NYRR donor Steve Jomides for supporting our long-time Young Runners site at City College Academy. Thanks to his donation, the 42 students in the program are receiving shoes in recognition of their running throughout the year and to encourage them to keep moving throughout the summer. Thank you to all who have donated to NYRR and those who have run with Team for Kids to enable us to offer free fitness programs in underserved communities and schools. Learn more: http://www.nyrr.org/youth-and-schools/young-runners

See full photo album linked here! (photos by John Suhar)

Member Spotlight: Shari Weber

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
I will be running in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1st. This will be my very first marathon!

What is your favorite place to run and why?
I love running in Las Vegas and in Boulder City! You never sweat because it’s so dry! It’s sunny almost every day of the year and beautiful running trails are everywhere. Even running on the strip is fun, especially at night!

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I love Def Leppard! And also house music, for the repetitive beats and no lyrics – it’s perfect for me!

What is your favorite post-run meal?
I love breakfast at any time of day so I usually have granola with fresh blueberries and rice milk. Or big breakfast meal of cheesy eggs and a Montreal bagel. They’re the best on the planet!

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
I started running in February 2014. My husband and I had planned a trip to North Korea and when I found out that their annual marathon was scheduled for the week of our visit and it was the first time ever that Americans and other foreigners could participate – we signed up! I started training the next day, on a treadmill and since then, I haven’t stopped running. I had 8 weeks of training before running in the DPRK!

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
I consider myself a very fidgety person, so I’m always triple checking that I have everything I need for a run. Which includes tissues (I struggle with allergies) lip balm (because I hate dry lips) charged earbuds & ipod. I launch my Nike app on my phone at the same time I start my fitbit watch. I dedicate a run to someone who has passed away and then I’m off. During the first two miles of my run, which I struggle with, I tell myself I’m strong and that I can do this. I say something positive at each mile and keep going.

Why did you choose to run this event?
My thought was simply this – go big or go home. I’m not sure marathon distance will be something I choose to do after November 1st, but I feel I should do it at least once to say I’ve done it. So why not NYC!

Tell us a little more about yourself
My husband and I plus our two fur children live in Las Vegas. We’ve lived here almost 4 years now, having come from LA. I work for Celine Dion and Jim is a concert promoter so we’re both in the same industry but on different sides of it. I absolutely love to travel and take our dogs everywhere we go. Going to the dog park with my pups is my zen time and running is me time. I’m pretty simple but like to put myself in extraordinary situations, hence the NYC marathon. And perhaps in 2016, The Great Wall of China marathon! I’d love to run all over the world.

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
Participating in one of the largest races on the planet is extremely exciting to me! What makes it even more special to me is running for a worthy cause and to participate with other like-minded individuals who want to help others.

Connect with Shari via the sites below:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/catchherifucan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatchHerifYouCan
Website: http://catchherifyoucan.com

Refreshing Summer Salad Recipes

Salads do not have to be boring. When temperatures are climbing and your apartment is stifling, turn to the 3 recipes below for a refreshing and healthy meal or side dish.

  • ABC Salad– simply grate apples, beets, and carrots for a crunchy side salad. Toss this colorful mix with a simple dressing of oil (vegetable or olive), lime juice, and minced ginger. You can always add low-sodium, canned garbanzo beans to kick up the protein for a more complete meal that’s still no-cook and raisins or dates for sweetness. Garnish with mint.

  • Raw Corn Salad– a great alternative to boiling, grilling, or baking ears of corn. Farmers markets are a great place to grab all these ingredients.
    • 4 ears of corn, cut raw kernels off cob
    • 1 red onion, chopped
    • 2 tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 carrots, grated
    • 2 Tablespoons oil (vegetable or olive)
    • ¼ cup vinegar (apple cider or red wine)
    • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Delicious additions: avocado and red pepper
    • Directions: Chop and mix all ingredients, and enjoy.

  • Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad– fruit salad with a twist! This salad is especially refreshing for hot summer days. From wholeliving.com
    • 2 navel oranges
    • 8 ounces strawberries (about 16), hulled and quartered or halved
    • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise, fronds reserved for garnish
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
    • Coarsely ground black pepper
    • 8 Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves
    • Dressing: Zest one orange, and reserve zest (2 teaspoons). Cut peel and pith away from both oranges. Use a paring knife to cut out the segments, letting them fall into a bowl, along with the juice.
    • Directions: Add strawberries, sliced fennel, orange zest, and fennel fronds to the bowl of orange segments and toss together gently. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce, toss, and serve.

Recipes courtesy of Lauren Antonucci and Nutrition Energy


Do you have a recipe and photos you would like to share with Team for Kids runners? If so, email them to teamforkids@nyrr.org for a chance to be featured!